London is always mentioned in the same breathe as New York, Paris and Tokyo as being one the main cities for popular culture, fashion, things happening, art and all that good shit. But there’s one thing that separates London from everywhere else – its complete lack of late night options. New York is called the city that never sleeps for good reason. You can get whatever you want at whatever time of the day. You need a hammer and some nails at 4am? You need a dozen bagels at midnight? All good. It’s truly 24 hours. Tokyo is pretty much the same from my limited experience, aside from the trains which stop at exactly midnight, but they’re so efficient I’ll give them a pass. London, on the other hand, basically stops from 6pm. Case in point – a couple of days ago I was on my way to work and decided to stop into my local coffee shop and buy myself a coffee. Unfortunately they’d already cleaned out their machine as they were closing for the day. It was 4:30pm. On a Saturday. Think about that for a minute. Doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to close that early? As far as I’m aware there are no coffee shops in London that open past 6pm. It’s the same with most museums, galleries and shops. After 6pm your options are either go out to eat or go the pub.
Why does nowhere open past 6pm? I’m sure part of it goes back to Juedo-Christian laws and traditions (shout out to my A-Level RE teacher). Pub culture is another main factor. Pubs are uniquely British, and don’t really exist in the same way anywhere else. Pubs traditionally serve as a meeting place, somewhere to socialise and congregate. Which is all well and good but what if I don’t want a pint of warm ale? I have no problem with pubs but I do think London’s lack of late night options is problematic. It’s also kind of ridiculous that anything past 6pm is considered late night. We are not a nation of party animals, staying out all night, constantly active every hour of the day. We like to squeeze as much as possible into a few hours. That’s how we invented binge drinking. Drink as much as you possibly can in the space of three hours, then stagger home to get the train. In bed by 11pm, by which time Central London will be completely dead. London pretty much shuts down from 6pm, and good luck doing trying to find somewhere decent to eat open past 11pm. What I’m really driving at is coffee shops not staying open in the evening. But then maybe no one wants caffeine past 7pm.
London – the city that sleeps 8 hours a night.